Wage structures and the labour market in the Baltic countries have improved considerably in recent years and this has had a positive impact on private consumption. In Latvia and Lithuania the strong growth trend continued during the year, while growth weakened quite significantly in Estonia. All three countries struggled with high unemployment rates, and the negative population growth continued.
In terms of GDP growth, Estonia handled the crisis years the best out of the three Baltic countries and recovered the fastest. However, in 2013 growth in Estonia weakened and this impacted private consumption. This trend is expected to continue in 2014.
The grocery retail market amounted to around EUR 2,033.5 million in 2013, representing growth of about 6%. There is stiff competition in the retail and grocery retail sectors and the total retail surface area is growing rapidly. Estonian customers spend an average of 20–25% of their disposable income on food.
The economy in Latvia continues to grow the fastest of all the EU nations. Private consumption in 2013 increased by about 6%. A strong labour market combined with an upwards trend in the property market and growing disposable income are all expected to contribute to a continuation of the trend in 2014.
The size of the Latvian grocery retail market was around EUR 2,434.4 million in 2013, an increase of about 6%. Although unemployment fell in 2013, it remains at a high level, which makes price an important competitive factor. On average, Latvians spend around 30% of their income on food.
Lithuania also experienced good economic growth. The grocery retail market in Lithuania amounted to around EUR 3,610.8 million, representing growth of about 6%. Competition in the grocery retail market is tough and the rate of store openings is high. Purchasing power remains low; on average the population spends around 30% of their income on food. However, in recent years the minimum wages have increased significantly and this is expected to have a positive impact on the grocery retail market.